Living with Metastatic Breast Cancer
My name is Adiba Barney. I’m 40 years old, married to the most wonderful man in this universe, Kris, and we live with our 2 precious dogs in beautiful San Francisco. I was born as a child of war in Lebanon. At the age of seven, my family and I fled to Sweden to survive, and start over. I’ve had a life filled with both tough challenges and great achievements, including starting my own company, with the goal of moving to the U.S. But that plan was put on hold when I got my first breast cancer diagnosis in 2005. Then in 2008, when I was only 30, I received my second diagnosis – the same breast cancer was back, and in the same breast. This time, I knew what to do – follow the treatment plan, get surgery and chemotherapy, stay on track. I had things under control. I felt like I was the one telling my friends and family that it was going to be OK. And once I was told that I was “cancer-free,” I was ready – it was time to take my company and move to San Francisco.
Things were going well! Then, in January of 2015, breast cancer changed my life again. After trying to have a baby for a couple of years, Kris and I were so excited to start IVF in the hopes of finally starting our family. Unfortunately, that was not in the cards. My routine mammogram showed that a new breast cancer was developing in my previously healthy breast. After doing a mastectomy of that breast, I was taken to the ER due to shortness of breath, where a CT scan showed that my previous breast cancer had spread to my bones. Instead of having a baby and fulfilling our dream of having a family, I was now facing a new reality: living with metastatic breast cancer.
After almost a year of treatments, good news, bad news, fear and hope, and a year where I realized I can push my inner strength to whole new levels, more tough challenges were waiting for us. Just before Christmas in 2015, scans showed that the treatment I started in April was no longer working. The evil cancer cells had become resistant to a treatment that we had hoped would work for at least 5 years. And, as a result, my breast cancer was now also in my lungs.
Luckily, I qualified for a clinical trial that involved aggressive, experimental radiation therapy and a new drug was effective. Today I have no evidence of tumors in my body, and I’m so, so happy. But, the side effects of the treatment will be with me forever. The radiation to my spine left me in a wheelchair, and I had to go to physical therapy to learn to walk again. And I take 10 pills every day to manage a variety of other side effects.
My fight continues – just as it does for every person living with metastatic breast cancer. I had to leave my job in February of 2016, and go on full-time medical leave. I loved being the CEO of the non-profit organization Silicon Valley Forum, and it was very hard for me. But today, I consider my work advocating for more education, research funding, and public policies that support metastatic breast cancer to be my “job.” We need more research, better treatments, and we need the cures.
I want this for everyone facing stage IV breast cancer, but I especially want it for my family. You see, after learning that I had no evidence of tumors in my body, Kris and I decided to pick up where we left off trying to start our family. We love our surrogate and are SO excited to welcome our baby boy this October.
Throughout the years I’ve learned how to handle challenges, survive and thrive from them instead of laying down and giving up. I’ll never give up on our fight to end breast cancer, and especially metastatic disease. I hope you won’t either.